Friday, May 15, 2009

e-Learning Leadership Development

It seems obvious that there is a perceived void in the development of future leaders in the field of e-Learning. At least it certainly appears that way. I come to that conclusion based on the fact that there are three different efforts by reputable organizations to develop leadership academies focused on e-Learning. One by ITC (note: I am a board member), one by WCET (note: I am involved in the event planning and execution), and one by SLOAN-C.

From the Instructional Technology Council (ITC): (copied from website)

ITC 2009 Leadership Academy
July 26-28, 2009, Costa Mesa, California Application Deadline: May 20, 2009

See Academy Web site
The ITC Leadership Academy is designed to develop and enrich the leadership skills of distance learning professionals in higher educational settings. Ideal candidates include distance learning administrators or learning technologies administrators with three or more years of managerial experience in a distance learning program. Along with a group of approximately 25 fellow professionals from throughout North America, participants will gain the opportunity to:
• Understand your organization and create a sound leadership strategy for your environment
• Develop a leadership model that fits your institution
• Identify and acquire key tools for successful leadership in distance learning
• Build a network of colleagues and fellow practitioners
This three-day academy will be held in beautiful Costa Mesa, a community of Orange County, California. The deadline to submit an application is May 20, 2009.
Visit the Academy Web site for more information and an application form.

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From WCET: (copied from website)

CatalystCAMP

Explore Leadership Strategies for eLearning Success with the Experts. In conjunction with the WCET Annual Conference on October 21-24, the first-ever CatalystCAMP is providing a unique professional development opportunity for emerging elearning leaders. CAMP participants will be teamed with national experts who will lead sessions addressing policy, technical, funding, and accountability issues currently facing higher education.

In these tight budget times, all available professional development funds must be spent wisely. By blending CatalystCAMP into the WCET conference schedule, it becomes a "2-for-1" savings on travel and also allows participants to augment their professional development program with selected conference sessions.

5 things YOU will do at CatalystCAMP

  • AWARENESS: Analyze external and internal pressures and what impact they may have on your institution.
  • ANTICIPATION: Identify needed changes and the rubrics for decision-making.
  • ARTICULATION: Plan what to do, how to do it, and when to do it.
  • ACTION: Implement, monitor, and manage change.
  • ASSESSMENT: Evaluate and evolve.
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From SLOAN-C: (copied from website)

The Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning (IELOL)

Has your institution recently launched or are you planning to launch an online program?

Do you have the next level of leadership prepared to embrace all that online delivery has to offer?

If you, like many, see developing the leadership capacity as a critical issue in establishing your an online program, you may be interested in participating in The Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning, a unique blended-learning leadership development program sponsored by Penn State and The Sloan Consortium (Sloan-C).

"A key objective of the Institute is to get emerging leaders together with online learning pioneers to share their experiences," explains Dr. Gary E. Miller, executive director emeritus of Penn State’s World Campus and one of the Institute leaders. With so many of the early adopters at or near retirement age, there is a real need to foster the development of the next generation of higher education leaders in online learning, Miller notes.

The institute is a blended format, which means participants will meet as a group for an immersive experience then continue their learning in an online environment that culminates with a capstone project at The Sloan Consortium's annual conference in October, explains co-director Lawrence C. Ragan.

The group experience will take place August 10–13, 2009, at Penn State.

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I have no doubt that all three organizations will provide valuable learning opportunities for participants. Maybe a better question is whether there are enough potential participants to go around.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Blackborg Goes Creative Commons

In the category of chock one up for electronic communications, MikeLeSombre (his blog) changed his copyright on the image shown above after getting requests from several people (including me) asking him to reconsider his "All Rights Reserved" copyright and allow sharing through Creative Commons licensing. That's exactly what he did.

Now his image is licensed as CC Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 which means that his image will be used and shared far and wide - legally. Thanks Mike. You have many fans who appreciate your handiwork with this poster.

Resistence is futile* (see note above) All your IMS are belong to us.

Thanks from Online Student Scholarship Winners

A few years ago I started a scholarship fund at Lake Superior College for students who are pursuing an online degree program or at least completing most of their courses via online delivery. Back then I was struck by the irony (or maybe sadness?) while attending the student awards banquet that none of the scholarships were going to online students. That just didn't seem right considering that about 15% of our enrollment was for online courses, but none of the financial support was being given to online students. They were clearly a hidden population. Now the online enrollments make up over 25% of our total enrollment, but I am happy to report that for the past several years we have honored online students on scholarship night. (CC photo by stuartpilbrow)

This year there were three online scholarship winners. Today I received thank you cards from each of them. They want to communicate with all the people who made their awards possible, so I will post their words here in an effort to let people know how appreciative they are.

#1: " Just a short note of thanks for selecting me to receive your scholarship through my education at LSC. I am currently seeking my dgeree in accounting to be able to hopefully upgrade my position with the State of Minnesota. I also am raising my 3 children, so any type of help such as this is greatly appreciated. Thanks, again."

#2: "Thank you very much for choosing me for the Virtual Campus Scholarship. I filled out 11 applications and I am pleased to have received one! I've been struggling to get my foot in the door to college for many years now, and now that I started classes I realized I enjoy college. When I try hard in classes I surprise myself because I never thought I could do that well. Thanks for helping me achieve my goals and believing in me. :)"

#3: "First of all, thank you for choosing me as one of the Virtual Campus Scholarship recipients. I have struggled to get half-way through my program and dealt with many hard things, hindering my abilities. But nothing is more important to me than graduating and being able to start my paralegal career with an A.S. degree in Legal Studies. I rely on financial aid and student loans to pay for college, but because I went over full-time both semesters, I had no funding left for summer classes. I am a single mom and unable to work for a few reasons, therefore, getting this degree as soon as possible is a major priority for me."

"I am very grateful that I was one of the many people chosen. I really needed this scholarship to attend summer classes. It is a great honor and privilege to have received this scholarship and I am so thankful. It has made my life somewhat easier and not as stressful in a few areas of my life. I really do appreciate receiving this scholarship more than words can say."

So there you have it. Those are the reasons that we needed the fund. Thanks so much to the other employees who donate money to the e-Campus scholarship fund and /or help out with the few fundraising events we hold each year. You all make a difference.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Blackboard Hearts Angel

I haven't posted anything about the Blackboard purchase of Angel during the first two days of the hub-bub because as my mother once told me, "If you don't have anything snarky and bitchy to say, just don't say anything at all." As I was preparing to write this post (and while mulling over her words of wisdom), I decided that I need to set the record straight regarding this much-maligned purchase. (CC angel photo by adselwood)

What a fabulous move by Blackboard! Once again, the Blackboard suits in the white hats have pulled a marvelous coup in the LMS market. Current Angel clients should embrace the fact that they have now been adopted by the mothership - where there will always be a bird in every pot, a car in every garage, and a lawyer in every chair.

I'm totally perplexed by all the negativity being expressed by various members of the education community. I even heard a few people remark that Michael Chasen appears to be a complete slimeball in this video from the fabulous Fox Network. I beg to differ. Mr. Chasen appears to me to be a completely sympathetic character; one who is only striving for the betterment of education and one who is not at all slimy. Just knock off all the talk about him being slimy. Clearly that is not the case. I see no slime whatsoever. (And it's certainly not his fault that the woman interviewing him is absolutely clueless.)

I have many friends at colleges and universities that are Angel clients. I have received emails/tweets/wall posts from several of them who want to cry on my shoulder and are expecting my sympathies in return. Get off my shoulder. Get over it. Put down that bottle of whiskey. This is absolutely the best thing that could have happened to you. The Angel platform is certain to live a long and fruitful life now that they have Blackboard's financial backing, BB's cadre of dedicated employees, their best-in-class architecture, and their much-deserved patent on the basic functionality of the LMS. Without this purchase by Blackboard, Angel was heading to a certain death and then where would all the Angel users be? Think of this as your BAILOUT, and Obama didn't even have anything to do with it. Or did he?

At Inside Higher Ed, both the article and the comments are mostly negative about this purchase. Don Gardner, Associate Vice President for Academic Technology at California State University, Long Beach is quoted as saying that Blackboard has provided "consistently poor customer service" and that Long Beach was in the process of switching to Angel because of Angel's superior customer service. Note to Dr. Gardner: since Blackboard is buying Angel they are also buying Angel's fabulous customer service. Therefore, you are going to be getting that great customer service from a company that is 12 to 15 times larger than Angel was, which means of course that you can expect the customer service to be even better than what you were hoping for under Angel - maybe even 12 to 15 times better.

In that same article, Fred Lokken, Associate Dean for Teaching Technologies at Truckee Meadows Community College in Nevada said he objected to the "predatory" way that Blackboard is fighting with Desire2Learn over patents. "Is the idea to own the market so that we have no choice?" Yes, Mr. Lokken. That is exactly the point. That is the American Way, and Blackboard is the poster child for illustrating the American Way of doing business. Every b-school student can learn a lot from watching the shrewd moves that Blackboard makes in dominating the education market with their superior technology and innovative innovations in the user interface and tool set.

"Chasen stressed that the attraction of Angel to Blackboard was respect for just the qualities that Angel's fans praise: teaching tools and customer service. He pledged that Angel customers would continue to receive strong support, that the new version of Angel that is coming out just as this deal is being announced would in fact come out, and that pricing would remain stable." (also from IHE) In this section Mr. Chasen lays out the the basic strategy for the Angel and Blackboard platforms. It reminds me greatly of the old days of General Motors. Pound for pound, Buick cars were always more expensive than Pontiacs. Many of the features of Buicks and Pontiacs were very similar, but Buicks were the big dogs (not as big as Cadillac, but big enough) and Pontiac was the younger, less mature, less expensive sibling. Considering the price differences between Blackboard and Angel, and considering that Mr. Chasen has stated that the pricing would remain stable, I think it's safe to say that LMS customers will now have the choice of buying the more expensive Buick Blackboard or the less expensive Pontiac Angel. And wouldn't those also be great names for cars?

Commenter Dane said "As one who has used Blackboard, I have found that, apart from whatever failings it has in service, it is one of the worst course management programs there is." Dane, you sound like a bitter, broken man. Clearly you are misguided in your opinions about Blackboard. Don't be a hater.

Commenter Kim says "Hmm ...Rapidly escalating prices, ignoring security issues, regularly purchasing competitors, aggressively pursuing patent protection, and deteriorating customer service. Should we not be concerned about the possibility of abusive monopolistic practices?" Yes, we should not. Just move along. Nothing to see here.

In a phone interview, when asked about whether this acquisition would have a stifling effect on competition, Mr. Chasen told Campus Technology "Actually there's more competition today with course management systems than ever before." That does sound perfectly reasonable to me. I have no doubt that Blackboard is actually pursuing a strategy of encouraging more competition, not trying to squelch it. In fact, it sounds like they would love to have a whole bunch of tiny little companies nipping at their heels. It helps keep them more agile that way, sort of like the postman.

Commenter Robert Blechman said "Given our recent economic history why would anyone think that one company controlling 80% of the market is a good idea? Who is going to raise the appropriate anti-trust objections to this merger?" Not me Robert, and not you either. You see, Angel was (still is) a privately-held company which means that most of the anti-trust legislation doesn't apply to this transaction. Translation: Blackboard can buy Angel and no one can stop it. Now that's smart positioning in my book.

Anonymous commenter said "I find it interesting that there has not been a single BlackBoard customer that has come to BB defense. Not one positive comment. It says a lot..." It says nothing. I have no doubt that these blog and news sites are deleting those positive posts because positivity just doesn't sell. There are lots of positive comments about Blackboard, they just don't show up on any public websites. Trust me.

And besides, just to prove you wrong Mr. Anonymous, consider this post to be one long, very positive comment in Blackboard's defense. Blackboard hearts Angel, and I heart Blackboard.

Do you have a mirror? (.dias tsuj I gnihtyreve esrever yletelpmoc tsuj woN)